The United States and Britain jointly urged India on Friday to reconsider its demand for Canada to significantly reduce its diplomatic presence in India. This request comes after Canada withdrew 41 diplomats in response to India’s request, which was made amid a dispute concerning the murder of a Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in a Vancouver suburb in June. Canada has alleged Indian involvement in the murder, a claim that India vehemently denies.
“We are troubled by the departure of Canadian diplomats from India, prompted by the Indian government’s insistence on reducing Canada’s diplomatic presence,” stated Matthew Miller, the spokesperson for the US State Department.
Both Washington and London have expressed serious concern about Canada’s allegations and have called on India to cooperate with Canada in the murder investigation. Despite their concerns, Western powers have been cautious about openly condemning India, given their strategic interests in maintaining a positive relationship with the country, which they see as a counterbalance to their main Asian rival, China. However, the statements released on Friday by the US State Department and Britain’s Foreign Office mark the most direct criticism of India in this case so far.
“We do not agree with the decisions made by the Indian government that led to the departure of several Canadian diplomats from India,” remarked a spokesperson for Britain’s Foreign Office.
Canada withdrew 41 diplomats from India after New Delhi’s request last month to reduce its diplomatic presence in response to Canada’s allegations regarding Nijjar’s killing. On Friday, Canada announced the temporary suspension of in-person operations at consulates in several Indian cities and warned of delays in visa processing.
The US State Department emphasized the importance of having diplomats on the ground to resolve differences, urging the Indian government not to insist on reducing Canada’s diplomatic presence and to cooperate in the ongoing Canadian investigation. Both the US and Britain cited the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, underscoring the need for India to uphold its obligations under the convention. Britain’s Foreign Office added that the unilateral removal of privileges and immunities that ensure the safety and security of diplomats contradicts the principles and effective functioning of the Vienna Convention.